Back To The FPL Future: GW1

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Bogey teams. Glaring differences between home and away form. Those players who just always seem to score against certain clubs. Sometimes fixtures past can offer some insight into fixtures future.

Looking at the recent history of the fixtures for the upcoming Gameweek can provide some potentially useful insights as to what we might expect to unfold. This is reinforced by a study of 25,000 games of football, which demonstrated a direct correlation between previous fixture results and the next fixture results. It is the reason why, for example, Everton’s 1-0 win at Liverpool in 2020/21 was so notable as their first win at Anfield in the Premier League since 1999; it was the exception that proved the rule.

Common themes, potential upsets, unexpected blanks or hauls for certain players. There are well known examples like how Jamie Vardy always scores against Arsenal. Or how Harry Kane always scores against Arsenal. Or how Kevin de Bruyne always scores against Ar…. you get the idea.

So, let’s take a look at the GW1 fixtures:

Brentford v Arsenal

What better way to start off an article on recent fixture history, than with two teams that haven’t met in a league game since 1947? Unlike the other fixtures for this week there is no table to provide, and this is likely to be the case for the majority of Brentford games this season due to their lack of league fixture history against the majority of Premier League teams.

The only recent meeting between these sides was a League Cup game in 2018, played at the Emirates stadium, which ended in a 3-1 Arsenal win. A win for the Gunners is probably expected again on Friday night, although promoted teams often play with a bit of a bounce in their first few games following their promotion. It must also be considered what effect Brentford playing their first Premier League game in front of a rocking home crowd will have. This could be a tricky game for the visitors who have not had the most convincing pre-season.

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Manchester Utd v Leeds

Leeds’ own limited Premier League experience in recent years means we have just the one fixture to examine here. And what a game it was! 8 goals, split 6-2 in favour of the home side. If we get anything near a similar game in the Saturday early kick off we’re in for a wild start to the day. It is hard to get an accurate reading on this fixture though from just one crazy game, and it cannot be ignored that, in the second half of last season, Leeds massively tightened up against the top teams and played far more defensively, with the reverse fixture ending 0-0.

Which way will this go on Saturday? Who knows. But if there are to be goals, it is hard to imagine FPL machine Bruno Fernandes not being involved for the home side in some capacity. He scored 2 and assisted 1 in the game last season and remains on penalties and some set pieces. For Leeds, any goals are likely to involve key duo Patrick Bamford (who is on penalties) and/or Raphinha who got a brace of assists in the defeat at Old Trafford last season. This promises to be an interesting game; neutrals (and Bruno owners) will be hoping for another goal fest.

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Burnley V Brighton

Following up the potential firecracker of Man Utd v Leeds on Saturday is more of a slight fizzle in Burnley v Brighton. This has been a typically low scoring game in recent seasons, with the average scores being 1-1. There have been 2 draws in the last 4 (Brighton were in the Championship in 2016/17) and a win each by a narrow 1 goal margin. Given the parity in results it’s hard to call which way this one will go, but what’s not hard to call is that this will probably be a low scoring game and most likely one for the defensive FPL options in both sides.

This should bode well for the most popular goalkeeper in FPL Robert Sanchez (£4.5), who has a decent chance at rewarding his high ownership with at least clean sheet points at Turf Moor. There are no particular standout players in this fixture, although Erik Pieters does have 2 assists in the last 2 games. A left field choice if ever there was one.

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Chelsea v Crystal Palace

This is probably the best time for Palace to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, after the Blues’ midweek exploits in the Super Cup in Belfast. That game also ran into extra time and penalties, which was the last thing the Chelsea would have wanted just before the opening game of the season. Ziyech picked up a serious looking injury, and the long game and travel means there may well be significant rotation for this one. This game is also expected to come too soon for ‘new’ Chelsea (re-)signing Romelu Lukaku. That said, Chelsea have won by increasingly large margins since the shock defeat to the Eagles in 2016/17.

Palace themselves will not be without their own significant changes though, with a huge personnel shift over the summer thanks to expiring contracts, and a new manager in Patrick Vieira who promises ‘attacking’ football, the antithesis of what Palace have provided under Roy Hodgson in recent years. The context surrounding this game could make it rather unpredictable, and this could low-key be one of the most exciting games of the weekend depending on how both teams approach it. Your money would still be on a Chelsea win if you had to place a bet, but there is a bit of a wildcard feel to this game (not literally the FPL wildcard obviously!).

Chilwell scored and assisted in this fixture last season, and the 14.2% owned left back could delight his owners once again against a more adventurous Palace side. That is, as long as the aforementioned rotation is kind to them. Zaha and Benteke both had strong early form in our timeframe; Zaha with a goal and 2 assists in 16/17 and 17/18 and Benteke with a goal and 1 assist. Both players tailed off though as Palace’s record at Stamford Bridge worsened. Will they be the players to once again benefit from a more attacking style of play? Zaha and Benteke both have low ownership with 7.3% and 1.5% respectively, so both represent differentials. The recent fixture history suggests this game will only be going one way, but as mentioned, there is an air of unpredictability surrounding this one.

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Everton v Southampton

It has not been the best of summers for Southampton, first losing the talismanic Danny Ings to Aston Villa, and now their towering centre back Jannik Vestergaard is moving to Leicester. It is unlikely to start getting better for them on Saturday at Everton either, a ground where they have not won at all in the Premier League in last 5 seasons. In fact, Southampton have not won a league game at Goodison Park since 1997. There have been 3 home wins and 2 draws in the last 5, and games have been generally low-scoring.

Richarlison has a strong record in this fixture, scoring in each of the last 3 home games vs the Saints. It remains to be seen whether the Brazilian will be ready in time for this game, with contrasting reporting on this front following his Copa America and Olympics exploits with the national team. Having scored 3 of Everton’s last 4 home goals against Southampton, Toffees fans will be hoping he is cleared and returns with a bang, as will his 9% ownership. Highly owned Lucas Digne (20.3%) did bag an assist in the 2019/20 fixture too, so there will be plenty of FPL managers wishing a repeat as well as a clean sheet for the Frenchman on Saturday.

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Leicester v Wolves

Wolves have not scored at the King Power stadium since their promotion to the Premier League in 2018. It doesn’t make for the most promising reading from a Wolves perspective, and the away team have never really scored for fun at the best of times. There have been 2 home wins and a bore draw in that time, so Wolves will be hoping for some new manager bounce from Bruno Lage, and possibly some magic from returning Wolves and FPL hero Raul Jimenez.

This will possibly not be the most high-scoring game, with Leicester averaging 1 goal per game to Wolves’ 0 over the last 3, but this new Wolves team have yet to fully take shape and it remains to be seen how this will affect things. Certainly, the Leicester forwards may find some luck against a Wolves high line, and the Foxes will have their tails up after their Community Shield victory over Manchester City last week.

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Watford v Aston Villa

Thanks to both sides’ largely non-overlapping spells in the Premier League in recent years, there is just the 1 fixture to review in the last 5 seasons between these sides at Vicarage Road. As a result, it is hard to infer too much from just the 1 result, and Watford’s propensity for manager sackings and striker buying mean there has been a fair amount of change for the Hornets since then. That result was a comfortable 3-0 home win, but both sides now are rather different to the ones featuring back then.

Instead, it is the away side now who come into this as bookies favourites to win, and most observers would probably expect the same. This is a Villa side in transition, however, after losing their beloved talisman Jack Grealish to Manchester City for a princely £100m. This has been invested in 3 new players, and it remains to be seen how quickly these signings will gel with their new team mates and settle into their new surroundings. Danny Ings at least has proven Premier League pedigree. Coming up against a home side who might still have some bounce from promotion, with the home crowd cheering them on. Villa remain favourites yes, but this could be a tricky game.

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Norwich v Liverpool

Norwich have largely called the Championship home over the last 5 seasons, meaning there is just the 1 season’s Premier League fixture to look at (this is turning into a bit of a theme for this gameweek). Unsurprisingly this was a Liverpool win, although it wasn’t as emphatic as you might expect. The same result is certainly expected again at Carrow Road in the late Saturday kick off, and with Liverpool assets proving amongst the most popular ahead of GW1, FPL managers will be hoping the final score is a little more one sided to boot.

Mane did score in the 1-0 win in 2019/20, but the Senegalese still has very low ownership despite the player having the most pre-season rest he’s had in a long time, and looking very sharp in pre-season. This is probably due to his £12m price point pricing him out of many teams. Still, if he returns to haunt the canaries on Saturday evening, his 4.5% ownership will be revelling.

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Newcastle v West Ham

Contrary to my expectations before starting this piece, this fixture is oddly high-scoring. Odd, considering you do not necessarily associate either of these teams with goal scoring exploits independently, let alone playing each other. One of these sides has put 3 goals past each other in 3 of the last 4 meetings at St. James’ Park, averaging out at nearly 2 goals each per game. Unlike some of other fixtures this weekend, this appears to be a game favouring attacking returns rather than defensive ones.

Although there are no clear, stand out players from recent meetings, the high recent scoring history of both sides would appear to bode well for the most highly owned player in this fixture, 22.6% owned Michail Antonio. The likes of Callum Wilson (7.3%), Allan Saint-Maximin (4.7%), Said Benrahma (5.0%) and Jarrod Bowen (1.9%) could also benefit from a high ceiling of attacking returns. Rather unexpectedly, this game has the recent history to suggest it could become the potential stand out game of the weekend from a goals perspective, and a cracking start to Sunday before the headline act…

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Tottenham v Manchester City

The final game of the weekend see Spurs host City, for what in theory should be the showpiece game of GW1. Spurs just have the edge in recent seasons, with 3 wins to City’s 2 in the last 5 games. Interesetingly, City have not scored at Spurs in the last 2 seasons, something which seems surprising until you remember Mourinho was in charge during that time. who loved parking the bus against bigger teams and hitting on the counter. It seems unthinkable that City would fail to score again on Sunday, especially with their shiny new toy Jack Grealish in the locker. And then there is the Kane-to-City transfer side story just to add a little spice to the occasion for good measure. New Spurs manager Nuno Espirito Santo has also masterminded his share of Man City defeats during his time in charge of Wolves. This promises to be an intriguing game.

Son has a strong recent record at home to City, scoring in each of the last two. His 22% ownership will be praying for more of the same this time round. Interestingly, Tanguy Ndombele matches this record of 2 goals in 2, but his 0.4% ownership is rather more modest than the South Korean’s, and it would be a brave manager who opted to take a punt on the Frenchman. Just who are these 0.4% of Ndombele owners anyway? I don’t need sleep, I need answers.

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So there we have it. I hope this has given some food for thought, some insight into potential games and players to target for this gameweek, and maybe some potential traps or upsets as well. Good luck all, see you on the other side!

FOOTNOTES:

Past meetings in cup competitions have been excluded from the table of results, as we are only interested in league results. Not to mention cup competitions can have more erratic/unreliable results with unique atmospheres and weakened teams often played.

There are also varying amounts of fixture history in the last 5 seasons to draw upon, by virtue of 3 teams being relegated to and promoted from the Championship every year. Leeds, for example, have been absent from the Premier league for 16 years and so will often have little to no league history in the last 5 years versus certain teams. It was considered to replace those teams in these articles with ‘similar’ teams for the sake of comparison, but it was decided that this would be more unreliable, subjective and arbitrary and therefore would not represent an accurate or fair analysis.

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